1) Gen 2:1–2: In a summation of Genesis 1,[1] Moses wrote, “And the heavens and the earth were completed.”

This depiction of “the seventh day” differs in tone from the earlier six. However, since it functions as the epilogue of creation, it belongs thematically with Genesis 1.[2]

Marking the significance of this day, Moses mentioned the number seven—which represents perfect completion—three times.[3]

God had ceased his creative activity,[4] for “the heavens and the earth and all their inhabitants were finished.”[5]

During the process of creation, the Lord subdued space. On the seventh day, he blessed time.[6] Thus the Sabbath is when we observe and celebrate the significance of time.[7]

Moses continued, “And God had finished on the seventh day his work which he had done.”[8]

Contrary to what some translations imply, by the onset of this day, God had already completed his activity.[9]

Moses employed an ordinary term for “work” (melacah) the same word to describe what people do.[10] Unlike the other designation used in the Old Testament specifically for manual labor, the one written here can describe any work. This includes the activity of a fine craftsman (Exod 36:8).[11]

“And he ceased from labor on the seventh day, from all the work which he had done.”

The verb translated as “ceased” (shabbath ) also appears in Josh 5:12.[12] Even though the noun “Sabbath” never appears in this verse, the verb implies the concept, which means “cease” or “rest.”[13]

God had been working not only to prepare the cosmos for humanity,[14] but also to achieve for himself a place of rest.[15]

The biblical term “rest” refers to a state of peace which one enters after completing tasks.[16]

Silence and stillness entered the atmosphere. All that God had planned for the universe was now in place.[17] He settled into the stable ambiance he had created and experienced refreshment.[18]

Likewise, the Egyptian Theology of Memphis states that the god Ptah created everything by thinking and speaking it into being. He then rested after making shrines and images for the lesser gods he had generated.[19]

In contrast, in Enuma Elish, the boisterous antics of some lesser gods disturbed the rest of the chief god Apsu. He complained to the water goddess Tiamat, “Their ways are truly loathsome unto me. By day I find no relief, nor repose by night. I will destroy, I will wreck their ways that quiet may be restored. Let us have rest!”[20]

Tiamat reacted to his desire to kill the other gods by rebelling. Thus, the absence of rest led to that primordial conflict.[21]

After the battle, Marduk said to the other gods that people “shall be charged with the service of the gods that they might be at ease!”[22]

Freed from the menial tasks of managing the earth and providing food for themselves, the gods could finally rest.[23]

Similarly, an Akkadian creation myth states, “That which is slight he shall raise to abundance, the work of god man shall bear!…Create, then…and let him bear the yoke! The yoke he shall bear…the work of god man shall bear!’”[24]

Thus, in Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) thought, people labored so the gods could rest.[25]

According to Enuma Elish, Marduk received control of the other gods and the entire cosmos after defeating Tiamat. In gratitude to him, the other gods built the sacred city of Babylon so that Marduk could rest:[26]

The [gods] opened their mouths and said to Marduk, their lord, “Now, O lord, you who have caused our deliverance, what shall be our homage to you?

Let us build a shrine whose name shall be called ‘Lo, a chamber for our nightly rest’; let us repose in it! Let us build a throne, a recess for his abode! On the day that we arrive we shall repose in it.”

When Marduk heard this, brightly glowed his features, like the day, “Construct Babylon, whose building you have requested, let its brickwork be fashioned. You shall name it ‘The Sanctuary.’”

The [gods] applied the implement; for one whole year they molded bricks. When the second year arrived, they…set up in it an abode for Marduk, Enlil, (and) Ea. In their presence he was seated in  grandeur.[27]

Therefore, striking differences exist between scriptural and ANE concepts of divine respite.[28] Not only does he not require food, the Lord never needs recovery from any kind of disturbance.[29]

Nevertheless, God sought a dwelling place of rest (Ps 132:7–8, 13–14; Num 10:33–36).[30]

Both the tabernacle and the temple were constructed as replicas of the cosmos (Ps 78:68–69).

Indeed, nearly identical language describes the creation of the cosmos, the tabernacle, and the temple (cf. Gen 1:31 with Exod 39:43; Gen 2:1 with Exod 39:32; Gen 2:2 with Exod 40:33; and Gen 2:3 with Exod 39:43).

The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, the temple, and all the earth (Exod 40:34–35; 1 Ki 8:8–13; Isa 6:1–3).

Echoing Gen 1, the description of the construction of the tabernacle centers upon seven distinct commands (Exod 25:1; Exod 30:11, 17, 22, 34; Exod 31:1, 12).

Solomon’s temple was built in seven years, and dedicated in the seventh month during a seven-day festival (1 Ki 6:38; 1 Ki 8:1–2, 65).[31]

In ANE literature, taking seven days to build or dedicate a temple occurs fairly often.

According to poetry about Baal and Anath, “On the seventh d[ay], the fire dies down in the house, the f[la]me in the palace. The silver turns into blocks, the gold is turned into bricks…Baal exults, ‘My h[ouse] have I built of silver. My palace, indeed, of gold.’”[32]

Similarly, when Gudea built a Sumerian temple, the construction lasted seven days: “It took one year to bring the great stones in slabs and it took another year to fashion them, although not even two or three days did he let pass idly.

Then it needed a day’s work to set up each one but by the seventh day he had set them all up around the house.”[33]

In the ANE, temples are places for divine rest, sanctuaries of sacred space (Lev 19:30; 2 Chron 6:41–7:1).[34]

For God to inhabit his place of rest signifies his enthronement, taking his rightful place as the sovereign ruler of the universe (Ps 93; Ps 104:1–4).[35]

Thus, the Lord’s seventh day continues even now, for he still inhabits his temple (1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 6:16; 1 Pet 2:5).[36]

In this epilogue of creation, the phrase “evening and morning” does not occur,[37] affirming that the Lord remains in his state of Sabbath rest.

Image via Wikimedia Commons


a) Read Gen 2:1–2. How are the biblical concepts of God resting similar to and different from the ANE texts? What evidence do we have that the whole cosmos is God’s temple? How do we know that the Lord remains at rest?






Go to The Lord Blesses the Seventh Day


[Related posts include Made in the Image of God (Gen 1:26 cont.); The Lord Provides Food (Gen 1:29–30); A Return to Paradise (Rev 22:1–5, 20); and Ancient Literature]


[Click here to go to Chapter 4: The Sabbath Rest of God (Genesis 2:1–3)]


[1] Gesenius, GKC, 328, https://archive.org/stream/geseniushebrewgr00geseuoft#page/328/mode/2up.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 34–5.

[3] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 67.

[4] Walton, Genesis, 146.

[5] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 35.

[6] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 67.

[7] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 73.

[8] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 35.

[9] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 142.

[10] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 35.

[11] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 142.

[12] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “שָׁבַת” (shabbath) BDB, 991–2, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/990/mode/2up. Note the similarity with the word for “seventh” (shabiyith).

[13] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 142.

[14] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 53.

[15] Walton, Genesis, 148.

[16] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 69.

[17] Hamilton, Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 141.

[18] Walton, Genesis, 147.

[19] “Theology of Memphis,” ANET, line 59, 5, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n29/mode/2up. Another translation for “Ptah was satisfied” is “Ptah rested.”

[20] “The Creation Epic” (Enuma Elish), ANET, tablet 1:35–40, 61, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n85/mode/2up.

[21] Walton, Genesis, 150.

[22] “The Creation Epic” (Enuma Elish), ANET, 6:8, 68, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n93/mode/2up.

[23] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 143.

[24]E. A. Speiser, trans., “Creation of Man by the Mother Goddess,” in ANET, obv. 1–9, 99, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n123/mode/2up.

[25] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 53.

[26] Walton, Genesis, 150.

[27]“The Creation Epic” (Enuma Elish),  in ANET, tablet 6:47–65, 68–9. Italics mine. https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n93/mode/2up.

[28] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 143.

[29] Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 2:3.

[30] Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 2:3.

[31] Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 60–1.

[32]“Poems About Baal and Anath,” in ANET, 6:131–8, 134, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n159/mode/2up.

[33]Oxford University Faculty of Oriental Studies, “The Building of Ninĝirsu’s Temple (Gudea, Cylinders A and B),” in The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, 617–22, http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section2/tr217.htm.

[34] Walton, Genesis, 151.

[35] Walton, Genesis, 148–9.

[36]John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. 1 (trans. James Anderson; Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 157.

[37] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 68.